Q: Finmeccanica recently rebranded its defence electronics business. What are the reasons behind this rebranding and are there any further changes planned?

A: We have rebranded the so-called avionics group as Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems, the communications group as Selex communications and the old AMS business as Selex Sistemi Integrati. We wanted to give an identity to the defence electronics business because it's become such a significant part of our overall business that it needs to have an identity.

Whether we want to look at Finmeccanica as a whole is a different story. I don't think we can assume that everything is going to be rebranded. Other areas have pretty strong historical identities - like Alenia and obviously AgustaWestland. Now we have Selex so we have a stable of brand names. I can't say whether we'll take it one step further than that - not necessarily. You could argue that Finmeccanica's a difficult name but it's becoming less difficult since we've become much bigger and much better known around the world.

Q: Does the renaming of the defence electronics business indicate a renewed focus on that area of activities?

A: We have important areas for our business; in two of them we want to be number one on a world stage. One is the defence electronics business and the other is helicopters with the AgustaWestland brand. We have other areas of excellence but clearly in these we have ambitions to have a globally competitive offering.

Q: What are Finmeccanica's plans for its non-core activities, such as Ansaldo Energia?

A: We are awaiting a response from Fintecna who have expressed interest in acquiring the controlling interest in [Ansaldo Energia] as to whether they are available to provide the put option to us to exit the business eventually. If that materialises it's possible that we would go ahead and do that transaction, assuming the values are correct.

If that does not come through we have also indicated that we will seek alternative ways of trying to deconsolidate the business.

But that doesn't mean that we'll be pressured into a sale. It does mean that we will be focused in any case on continuing to improve the profitability of these businesses which have been doing a lot better in recent years.

Q: What is your view on the future of European industry in terms of further consolidation?

A: It's obvious that the French scenario is the one the provides the most interesting developments where a lot of it centres around the issue of Thales, DCN and EADS. Our view is that the French government will need to make up its own mind what it prefers as a solution, although it would not necessarily be the sole motivator of any change. I personally don't know what the French government's view is in terms of their industrial reorganisation but I think Thales and DCN coming together would meet certain objectives.

Q: How could Finmeccanica be involved in a further round of consolidation?

A: We have indicated our interest in being involved in the discussions relating to the future of Thales. We have made that clear. I think Thales has expressed an interest in having us involved in future discussions about them and if there is a significant potential synergy certainly between the defence electronics businesses of Finmeccanica and those of Thales.

I don't think we have any more detail about how a combination of these two areas of the two businesses can be made, if at all possible, because nothing will happen until a determination by the shareholders of Thales is made about the way Thales is going to go. I think that they have a full slate of options including keeping Thales independent. All we can say is that we would like to be considered as one of the options.

Q: What impact would other European alliances have on Finmeccanica?

A: Clearly if Thales and EADS came together that would be a a competitive development that would concern us because it would create a very significant defence entity in continental Europe which we would have to react to. At a minimum that would mean more competition worldwide and possibly we would have to look at other alliances. We would have to strengthen our business further but it's hard to say how at this stage.

Source: Flight Daily News